2018 Mercy Leadership Program and Dublin Pilgrimage
Last month, five Sisters of Mercy and twenty-two lay Board Chairs, Directors and Senior Executive Leaders from Australia travelled to Dublin for Module Two of the Mercy Leadership Program and Dublin Pilgrimage for 2018.
The program, which was led by Karon Donnellon RSM and Liz Dowling RSM, immersed the pilgrims in the story of Catherine McAuley and the early Sisters, with the purpose of understanding the tradition out of which today’s ministry and leadership has been born and how that tradition is being expressed today.
The first three days of the program were spent exploring the stories of Catherine McAuley, and the early women of Mercy, where pilgrims were engaged in the story by the Mercy International team, bringing these stories alive in the spaces where the events occurred. The pilgrims listened to presentations, participated in conversation and took time for quiet reflection in special places in the House of Mercy, in the streets of Dublin, at Coolock House and in Georges Hill where Catherine McAuley first took her vows as a Sister of Mercy. Drawing on historical stories and contemporary leadership theory, an engaging presentation by Breege O’Neill RSM challenged the leaders on how Catherine’s style of leadership might be the inspiration for Mercy leadership today.
Day four of the program, which is known as a ‘day of integration’ saw a change of pace, as participants travelled to Glendalough, a place of majestic natural vistas and home to one of the most significant monastic sites in Ireland founded by Saint Kevin in the sixth century. Participants were led in a day of walking reflection by Margaret Prendergast RSM and some local lay women to experience what is known in Celtic Spirituality as the ‘thin places’. In what could be described as a miracle, the usually bleak Glendalough weather was replaced by stunning sunshine and clear skies.
The final two days of the program were focused on answering the question, ‘what is the contemporary expression of our tradition?’. Maria McGuiness RSM and Denise Boyle FMDM, Director of the Global Action Program for Mercy International, facilitated sessions aimed at exploring the contemporary challenges that face leaders in a world crying out for Mercy.
In reflecting on the pilgrimage, Karon Donnellon RSM said that while most people in the group already had a strong appreciation of Mercy, spending time at the place Catherine lived, built and founded takes this understanding to a deeper level as people see and experience the embodiment of Catherine’s dream.
“The pilgrimage is not a history lesson, it draws on our history as a lens through which our current and future leaders are challenged to reflect on how they are living out the Mercy charism in a world that externally seems very different, yet the core fundamental needs and issues remain the same,” Karon said.
One of the pilgrims, Tony Bidstrup, Chief Executive Officer, Mercy Services Newcastle highlighted how well the week flowed.
“I came to a deeper understanding of Catherine’s journey and while this journey does focus on the remarkable woman Catherine was, it also showed how in order to realise her dream Catherine gathered a team of others around her.
“Arising from the week, a question for me is ‘how do I continue to connect the story of Catherine McAuley and the Sisters who have followed to our ministry in the present day?’.
“In the weeks and months following the pilgrimage, I will be seeking to work with the team at Mercy Services to answer this question, not just for staff and volunteers, but also for our clients so that we can all deepen our appreciation of the roots from which our organisation was founded,” Tony said.
The Pilgrims will gather together in August for the final module of this three-part program.
Messages to: Karon Donnellon RSM